Part One: Zambia

During our nearly 2 weeks in Africa, we took 11 flights and set foot in 5 countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Bostwana, and Mozambique.  Each one offered a completely different landscape and experience. 

There was no “blogging from the bush” as we found ourselves in remote locations literally cut off from any forms of communication.  Our Modern Expat Family was extracted from the modern world as we embarked on an African adventure that spawned these travel tales told in three parts…

Part one: Zambia

After nearly 20 hours of travel, we gratefully arrived in Zambia and settled into the Sussi & Chuma Sactuary, a lodge named after the trusted servants of David Livingstone, the British adventurer who first laid eyes on the magnificent Victoria Falls in 1855.  Our room was essentially a luxurious treehouse overlooking the great Zambezi River.  Our new companion was a curious, playful vervat monkey who followed us into reception and taunted us from his perch.

Little time was wasted before our intrepid guide, Luckson, whisked us away to the local reserve for a game drive.  Here, we encountered a remarkable number of animals:  a dazzle of zebras, a tower of giraffes, a troupe of baboons, a small herd of elephants, and the ubiquitous clusters of impala and wildebeest.

Then, we got word that the rare white rhinos were within walking distance.  We hopped out of the safety of the jeep, and started trekking across course tall grass, biting needles, and uneven rocks to a river bed.  Here we found two adults and one baby white rhino.  They did not seem bothered by us, but when one of them approached within 20 feet, we were told to “hush and slowly move backwards”.  This was a little too close for comfort, and Jackie decided she’d had enough!

Each night we enjoyed a relaxing sunset cruise along the Zambezi River.  As we quietly cut through the currents and eddies, we found quite a few pods of hippos staring us down with only their ominous black eyes visible above the water’s surface.  Hippos can be quite dangerous, and I was a bit unnerved when they silently sunk down out of view.  It was then that we hastily retreated and followed another path along the river.  One night, we discovered a small herd on elephants at the river’s edge just as the sun was setting and a vibrant orange streak slashed across the sky, placing the giant animals and surrounding foliage in dramatic silhouette.

I was captivated by the sight of another giant, an immense hippo who emerged from the river one evening, grazing contently in the sunset.

We visited the local village and school where very few children can afford the $3 per week to attain an elementary education.  As we wondered through the impoverished village of decrepit huts and crude plumbing, we were accompanied by bands of exuberant young children who eagerly took our hands and followed us along the dusty dirt paths.  We encountered extreme poverty, but the smiling children dressed in rags were playful and silly just like 4-5 year olds anywhere in the world. It was simultaneously heart breaking and inspiring.

The next day we ventured off to Victoria Falls, deservedly one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  The falls are a mile and a quarter wide (twice the size of Niagara) and drop 365 feet to the gorge below.  The spray can be seen for miles, which is why in the local language the falls are called Mosi-o-Tunya (the Smoke That Thunders).

Upon first view, my eyes were torn between the vast and mighty falls and the vibrant perfect rainbow that arched towards it.  I felt as if I were looking at photo shopped scene — it was simply too beautiful to be real.

We wore protective rain ponchos to venture out on a narrow suspended path adjacent to the falls.  The thunderous spray created a “cloud” of cascading downpour that drenched us within minutes.

We crossed a bridge stepping over the border to Zimbabwe to catch a glimpse of the adrenaline junkies dropping 300+ feet by bungee cord or suspended perilously above the gulch by zip line.  Katie considered taking the bungee plunge.  I told her that every daredevil lining up was in their early 20s, obviously single, and foolishly invincible enough to try such an death-defying activity.  I nixed the bungee but couldn’t avoid the microplane.

On our last day in Zambia, we decided to take a microplane ride for a bird’s eye view of the falls.  As some of you know, I am terrified of heights.   And yet, I was assured by my family that this activity would be fun and memorable.  There were two planes, and I watched Katie and Jackie take off separately and disappear from view.  The couple sitting next to me asked how I felt watching my children fly away.  I was too paralyzed to respond.

Jackie landed and teased me, “Come on Mom, don’t be such a wimp!”   With that taunt, I found myself strapped into a what could best be described as go-cart with wings, sitting in a small seat with no protective walls, supported by one flimsy seat belt and a helmet.  It was absolutely terrified, especially when we hovered over the falls, feeling the spray mist over us, hearing the roaring thunder of the powerful water beneath me, and teetering like a car dashboard hula dancer with each powerful gust of wind.  I could not even bear to look down.  Apparently, David Livingstone once exclaimed in ecstacy that the falls were “gazed upon by angels in their flight”.  Forget the angels, I was in Hell!

My hands and knees were still trembling two hours later when I found myself gearing up for another “micro” flight on a 4-seater prop plane as we prepared to leave for Botswana.  The day was clear and Jeff made idle conversation with our pilot, Hazel, prior to the flight:  “Looks like a nice day to fly“.  Hazel’s deadpan response did not calm my nerves, “No. Not really.”  She did not mince words, and she did not lie.  The strong winds that buffeted our go-cart in the sky over the falls created a very bumpy flight from Livingstone to Kasane.  And then from Kasane to Selina.  I was very relieved when we touched ground on a small dusty runway in the middle of the Botswana Bush.

To be continued…

 

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